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Gas Stations and Your WalletSalem-News.com
Masters of the impulse and convenience
(SALEM, Ore.) - Recently in Oregon news, BP gas stations were forced to pay a hefty price for up-charging debit card users a $.35 service fee for each of their gas transactions.
A $409 million dollar verdict was reached for a cluster of ARCO stations that were charging the fee and did not properly advertise to their customers.
While BP representatives and the ARCO stations involved claimed that they did properly notify customers about the fee prior to them pumping their gas, the defendants in the class-action suit and the court ruled that not enough was done to make customers aware of the fee. Often, customers would pump $20.00 worth of gas and go inside only to be charged $20.35 that they didn't realize they would be charged.
Few customers had grounds to refuse to pay, considering the gas was already in their tanks at that point.
If you have ever wondered why we spend so much as gas stations in the first place, this story is a prime example of the game they play with their retail merchandise. Gas, for most of us, is a commodity.
Most Americans drive a car that runs on gas, mow our lawns with gas mowers and use gas-powered generators in emergencies. The Great American Roadtrip still exists, with our friends and neighbors gassing up the family car to drive across country on vacation, or just take a day trip.
On the retail side of gas stations, companies make sure that they stock their shelves with the most impulse-driven items that will appeal to the average commuter. For the same reason that most people walked into Oregon ARCO stations and paid the extra $.35 for the gas already in their car, people will buy a candy bar for $.25 more than their local grocery store simply out of convenience.
Coupled with wall-to-wall advertising from the window decals to refrigerator wraps by the checkout counter, it’s difficult if not impossible to enter a gas station and not feel compelled to buy a snack or product of some kind.
There is money to be made in convenience. Not only are the shelves of many gas stations filled with impulse-buy type items, gas stations are where most people buy their lottery tickets, alcohol, and tobacco products.
Furthermore, gas stations will typically stock pantry staples that fetch a much higher cost than the average market. A loaf of bread that would be $2.00 at a grocer could be $3.25 at any gas station.
This tactic is effective because as a consumer who forgot the bread on the way home from work, you are suddenly faced with the choice of making an extra stop or just shelling out the extra $1.25 to save yourself the time and effort.
Low gas prices and the promise of a cheap but strong cup of coffee are a compelling argument to get customers in the door.
Selling beer or cigarettes at state minimums is another way gas stations drive foot traffic and as a result experience a halo effect as consumers pickup up a couple of candy bars, some chips or that milk they forgot to grab, darn it. Before you know it, you've got what you came for plus three or four impulse items that you didn't plan on!
Some gas stations (the more sinister variety, if you are a parent) even keep small tchotchkes near the register that attract little eyes and hands. Another few dollars to appease your little one can seem like a small price to pay to save the tears and fights if you dare to say no!
Gas stations are masters of the impulse and convenience, and they don't seem to be slowing down any time soon!
Source: Salem-News.com Special Features Dept.
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